By James Wells, Special to the AFRO

Maryland is one of three states that require the governor’s signature before men/women serving life sentences can be released on parole. Thus far, no one has been released on parole in the past two decades. There are over 2,500 “lifers” in Maryland and climbing.

More than a decade ago former TV news reporter Michael O’Lesker conducted a state to state survey to see just how many years does the average “lifer” serve behind bars before they are released. The average “lifer” was serving a little over 17 years during that time. Maryland has “lifers” who have been behind bars 30-40 years or more. There are geriatric prisoners in just about all institutions throughout Maryland and growing. Men and women over the age of 55 are costing tax payers in excess of $75,000 annually for housing and medical care.

With the drug epidemic exploding here in Maryland and so many young kids overdosing, the money spent to house “lifers” could be used to open up drug facilities to try and deter drug deaths amongst our youth. In addition, this money could be used for after-school programs to keep our youth off the street and from being subjected to gang affiliation, housing for the homeless, battered women shelters, recreational centers etc.

The Maryland legislature passed a law that “lifers” who have served 25 years and have a good institutional adjustment will definitely be considered for release. Absolutely no one has been released thus far.

James Wells is serving a life-sentence for first degree murder. While robbing a jewelry store in 1977 with his co-defendant, William Henry Jackson, an off-duty police officer shot and killed the hostage Wells and Jackson were holding.